I *gulp* sawed through the waste line in the hallway ceiling last night and installed a neoprene coupler over the leaking joint and pipe (not the optimal solution, but when faced with the alternative—pulling half the wall down, replacing a three-way PVC joint and three or four runs of mixed-size copper pipe—the best solution) and had Jen run the water upstairs: there was not a drop of water to be found. This morning it was bone-dry after my shower, and hopefully after Jen’s as well. This means I’ll get started on re-hanging the ceiling this week. I was kind of hoping to have a snow day this morning, but Mother Nature decided to start the job after I got to work.

In response to the continual rusty water Baltimore County is delivering to us, I picked up a GE brand home filtration kit at Home Depot last night as well—installation involves shutting off the main house supply and putting in a splice; given that every “simple” project has a difficult twist where this house is concerned, it means I have a vertical run of about 4′ to work with. So I’ll have to *gulp* cut through the main house supply at some point in the next couple of days.

Date posted: January 19, 2005 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

Autolux, Future Perfect. I don’t get the current fawning top-10 craze over The Arcade Fire (I’d say it’s in the top 50, but not a number 1) so the comparison is pretty flawed, in my opinion, but this is good stuff. To quote one Amazon reviewer, think of a quieter, more pleasant mixture of My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth. (For the record, I dug on Daydream Nation, but SY’s later catalog made me yawn.) Thanks, Nate.

Life in Catonsville is pretty quiet this week; it’s cold and very windy out there (apparently the artists’ space below us here at work is extremely cold while they work out some HVAC issues) and they’re calling for some snow this week. Valium apparently has absolutely no effect on Penn the cat. Prozac made him a sullen, morose teenager, prone to quick outbursts of anger and long mellow periods. Valium, for him, is like a four-day crystal meth binge: if he could find a way to crawl up inside my skin for MORE PETS RIGHT NOW, I think he’d do it. Thursday we’ll up the dose to Bring Down An Elephant and see if he doesn’t burn through that in fifteen minutes. After half a year of being cooped up in that room, it would be nice to let him out into the house again and reclaim our office.

Date posted: January 18, 2005 | Filed under music | Leave a Comment »

Saturday I got back underway with the hallway project, which has been lurching along slowly while the holidays and other events have worked themselves out. The walls have been (mostly) washed of all remaining wallpaper paste, and about 75% of the the holes and cracks have been smoothed out. The 4′ X 10′ bulge by the stairwell was pulled out and replaced, and the odd concrete fill job has been patched. During the cleanup on Saturday I asked Jen if she’d like me to pull the ceiling tile down to see what was underneath. Jen, having hated the tile since we looked at the house, gave her OK.

After about fifteen minutes of demolition, I realized why the drop ceiling had been installed. When the doctor had replaced the shower tub and bathroom plumbing directly above, the workmen had to contend with a poured concrete subfloor, which meant a shallow 4″ run for the piping. (All piping should have a slight angle running downward to let gravity help the water go where it should.) Thus, to avoid the concrete, the elbow drain for the shower extends about 2″ below the ceiling line in the hallway. I guess I wouldn’t be so upset if the work had been done well, but I’ve done better plumbing work on my first attempt. This looks like somebody’s bastard half-cousin used a cigarette lighter to sweat the joints in the copper and nearly set fire to the house in the process. Oh, and they sawed completely through one of the floor joists to put in the hot and cold lines.

So, there will be a few days of repair and remediation before we cover everything back up. As it turns out, there’s a slight leak in the PVC waste line that I have to fix, and I can also blow some fiber insulation in between the first few floor joists by the front of the house for added heat retention, as well as add some around the inside of the bathtub. Todd W. was good enough to answer his neighbor’s call and help me hustle five sheets of drywall from Home Depot the front porch, which means I can start hanging the ceiling anytime I need to. At some point this week, I’ll update the photos.

Saturday also marked the end of the Ghetto Driveway Tent; the seventeenth windstormof the season finally blew it all to hell and jammed everything up in between the garage and the side of the house, so I disassembled it and put it away. On the positive side, I took another look at the floor in the garage and I think I have a way to brace the wood subfloor up with enough strength to hold the Scout.

Efforts to get Apple Remote Desktop working have succeeded. Bring on my Mini!

*sigh.* I’m going to miss Dan Rather.

Date posted: January 17, 2005 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

Hallway Beginning

A view from the front door at the stairway. I’d already started pulling cieling tile off, and figured it would be smart to take pictures before the whole thing fell down.

Hallway Beginning 2

This is from the opposite side, looking from the stairs at the fron door.

Nasty Chandelier

Several hours later, this is what we were left with. The plaster on the cieling didn’t look too bad on the stairway side…


But over on the doorway side, it was completely hosed. Water had leaked from lousy piping in the bathroom above and destroyed the plaster above. If you can believe it, there was a layer of trash bags holding loose plaster and lathe bits up there.

At some point in the history of PVC piping, the drains had been replaced poorly—there was a leak in the joint where the elbow met on the west wall that I had to patch.

Date posted: January 15, 2005 | Filed under house | Comments Off on Hallway Beginning

Research on the cellphone thing has been coming along. Luckily, an issue of Consumer Reports just came across our doorstep with a comprehensive article on wireless carriers and phones. From what I understand, Cingular’s network (GSM) is well-suited towards phones with good technology like Bluetooth. However, the type of digital service and lack of analog backup means the coverage is a lot spottier, especially in rural areas. All the decent phone deals they offer (“Free cameraphone!”) are for a 2-year contract which is shit; I want a one-year deal with a good phone for cheap. The storefront sells that Sony Ericsson handset for $99/2-year deal or 199$/1-year deal while online it’s free/2-years; they have a Motorola handset with Bluetooth and a camera for $129/1-year deal. So, in essence:

  • If I want a phone that syncs automatically with my computer, I have to use Cingular;
  • If I want to use Cingular, I have to put up with spotty coverage in places like mid-Pennsylvannia, and;
  • If I want a one-year contract, I’m going to have to pay at least $100 for a phone.

In other news, I’m mucking around with Apple Desktop Client right now-it’s essentially VNC for headless Macs. Very nice, although it’s a bit balky with a 4-year old pair of G3’s. I can share out a bunch of stuff (it’s weird to see the laptop’s screen on the iMac) but I’m having problems taking control of the iMac itself.

My Bad. Perhaps I should clarify my brief comment from yesterday regarding the textbook stickers:

“The schools placed the stickers after more than 2,000 parents complained the textbooks presented evolution as fact, without mentioning rival ideas about the beginnings of life.”

The stickers read, “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”

I understand why these parents were upset, and I can see why the school board chose to put the stickers in the books. I can also see why other parents sued to have the stickers removed. Practice your faith. Teach your children. But please don’t teach them that one God is better than the other, or that somebody else’s faith/belief system is wrong. My personal knee-jerk mistrust colored my original post; My apologies to those I offended. Thanks for the smack upside the head, Dave.

Date posted: January 14, 2005 | Filed under geek | Leave a Comment »

I need to bring in a parka or some kind of electric ass warmer, because it’s freezing in here today.

Guilty Pleasure Dept.: Project Runway. Watch this show and marvel at its stupid, vapid brilliance. Where else can you make fun of supermodels, mincing clothing designers, “fashion”, and normal people all in one place? Besides, it’s funny to realize just how average (and annoying) professional models can be before the stylists perform their studio magic and turn them into sexless, plastic robots. Girl, you skin nasty. We may have to make a party night out of this…

Birthing Babies. Congratulations to our friends the Mat-uh-YOW-skees, who just gave birth to their second child, Fletcher Owen. (The spelling is mine; I had to phoneticize it the first time I wrote it down so that I wouldn’t muff it when I shook hands.)

Suggestions. My 4-year-old Motorola phone, an ancient V-series handset, is falling apart. The battery lasts about 20 minutes, the headset jack is busted, and the interface is about as unusable as a Korean karaoke menu. I’m looking for a new-generation phone, something that will work with my computer, something that is easy to use, and best of all, cheap. I may have found my phone. Does anybody have a Sony/Ericsson phone, and what do you think of it? (My experience with Sony has been lackluster. I don’t need a phone camera, but I want Bluetooth. I could give a rat’s ass about ringtones and instant messaging—give me an interface I can work with.) I’m going to find a Cingular store and see if I can’t lay hands on one this evening.

A Small Slice of Sanity. Thank god somebody still has a brain.

Date posted: January 13, 2005 | Filed under entertainment, friends | Leave a Comment »

We’ve moved into a new, spiffy building (yeah, I know, pictures to come, blah blah) and into very corporate-looking cubes. Todd has already been bitch-slapped for riding the Razor scooter, and we have a new “corporate identity”. Our little company has gone upmarket. Here are some other random thoughts:

  • This place is still as cold as the old office (the thermostat is set on “Super Blast Chill” which means the register above my head is cheerfully blowing snow onto my shoulders), and I’m nowhere near a window anymore.
  • There are whiteboards everywhere. I’m sitting next to one. Thus, if you ever hear me say, “Let’s whiteboard this,” I’m a half-mile down Corporate Bullshitspeak Lane, and you have permission to kick me in the groin.
  • No more private bathrooms. (This is a blessing and a curse. I have bathroom privacy issues. There, I’ve said it.) Currently they are always occupied by assorted workmen washing brushes or taking coffee breaks. I’ll wait until I get home, thanks.
  • There’s more space here. It’s kind of nice to spread my junk out instead of move piles of debris from one place to the next.
  • I put up the iTunes server and almost immediately had five people on it. Time to rethink my bandwidth strategy.

As the veteran of many office moves—four with Skycache alone—I have to say this place is pretty nice, however.

Last night Todd W. rang us up and asked if I’d like to have the piles of leaves in our driveway hauled off to the dump. They’ve been sitting out in front of our house, adding to the ghetto mystique (the Scout sitting under a wind-blasted, drunken tent is the centerpiece) since November, right around the time things started getting crazy. This morning we got about half of them in the bed and dumped them with a few more boxes of plaster from the hallway, and I bought him some coffee at Starbuck’s, with a promise to finish the job tomorrow. We’ve got good friends.

Date posted: January 12, 2005 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

I went back to work this morning, but I didn’t park in front of the same shapeless shoebox I’ve called home for four years. No, while we were gone, my humble employer packed up the tent and moved to a new campsite: the headquarters of a recently downsized defense contractor, not a half-mile up the street. The main floor of the space is a sprawling two-story greenhouse—a far cry from the cramped, low-ceilinged hovel we used to work from. Instead of the “welcome to my cousin’s basement” vibe our company used to have, now it looks like we actually produce something other than empty pizza boxes. Of course, for some reason that makes sense to people with larger paychecks than me, I’m banished to a different part of the building than the rest of the artists, who live down in the airy glassed-in section. Todd and I have been put upstairs in a section mostly populated by programmers, which isn’t bad, but a little demoralizing for me. There are a few perks: better workspace (still cubes, tho’), an on-site cafeteria, for the days we don’t feel like bringing or going out in the rain for food, better climate control (they’re still working out some kinks) and SPACE. Sweet, glorious space. Pictures will follow shortly.

Date posted: January 11, 2005 | Filed under design | Leave a Comment »

Looks like I’ll have to pick one of these up for an inexpensive iTunes server to replace the iMac. Sweet. However, it looks like that rumored phone they were supposed to offer is not appearing, so I’m going to be looking into a new handset this week.

I posted a picture of Jen and her mother on Sunday’s entry, one that I saw and immediately loved. I think it shows how much happiness and love each had for the other (and two more photogenic subjects I’ve never seen.)

Some thoughts on our travels last week:

  • It’s funny how funerals are often more about the family consoling the guests than the other way around. Well, maybe it’s not so funny.
  • People in Ohio are surprised when the lower half of their state floods. I mean, how could a huge floodplain directly under lake-effect precipitation fill with water so fast? Remarkable! (We made it in directly under the wire—hours after we made it to the hotel, our highway was under water.)
  • In a week when hard liquor was never needed more desperately by two people, Jen and I held ourselves to one Corona each, on the evening before we left for home. This is like Ted Kennedy going without vodka for a week, or Dick Cheney passing on his daily infusion of innocent children’s blood.
  • People in Ohio love to smoke. Not like you smoke when you hit the bar on Friday night after a few beers—no, these folks take their lung cancer seriously, like Russian factory workers. In the one-horse town of Logan, where the town square is a block away from the local grain elevator, there are three cigarette stores, each with exotic names like “Smokes For Less” (a converted Shell station) and “Cheap Smokes” (in the deserted Ames shopping center.) They advertise prices in Ohio by the crate.
  • West Virginia is absolutely devoid of life. It’s one continuous interstate, punctuated every four or five miles by a crumbling farmhouse set in a hollow. You can still see the paths they beat getting the hell out of that godforsaken place. All those jokes about Appalachia make sense to me now.
  • There was a point where Jen and I seriously questioned our responsibility to her mother’s peaceful burial: it came about the time traffic stalled us directly in front of the two-lane bridge into town, where half the Ohio river was six inches from the bottom of the span, and whole tree trunks were floating past. I think we hit about Mach 3 going across that sucker.
  • Ohio in January is sort of how I imagine Scotland in winter. But colder, and they have more teeth.
  • I meant to pinch the purple magnetic “Funeral” flag they put on the Jeep, so that I could speed to and from work with my lights on, but they took it while we were graveside.
  • Props to Jen’s Dad, for being a class act the whole way through. To Sara, for watching the house, keeping the cats company, and making a huge dish of lasagna for us the day we got home. To Jen’s extended family, for making a skinny Irish kid feel welcome in an emotionally draining time. To all our friends and relatives for keeping us in their thoughts and giving us help and support.
    Date posted: January 11, 2005 | Filed under family, travel | Leave a Comment »

The past two weeks have been pretty tough. For a couple who have only been married a total of seven months, I have to say Jen and I held together pretty damned well. We attended three viewings, one mass and burial, dodged calamitous flooding throughout southeastern Ohio, met up with much of the extended Beck family, and went through a set of brakes and 2,000 miles on the Jeep without one instance of homicide. My wife’s strength throughout the last week has been incredible, between caring for her mother, helping her father make the arrangements, guiding the family through the week, and dealing with the pain of loss herself.

I learned many new things about my mother-in-law from friends, relatives, and family in the past week. While I may have had my differences with her in some places, I learned that she touched the lives of many people with humor, kindness, and love. Go in peace, Mrs. Lockard.

Date posted: January 9, 2005 | Filed under family | Leave a Comment »